I stepped out of formation and walked holding my mandolin in the air. There were quite a few of us, and I figured I was the only one carrying a mandolin. So, I held it aloft like a beacon. It worked and I could hear my wife yelling “Chaplain Fuller!” Claire and Lily ran to me right away and i dropped all I was carrying and pulled them close.
Ewan looked at me tentatively. In his closest, and maybe farthest, recollection I was only 2D, and on a screen. He would see me in pictures point me out. When he saw me on the computer or phone he would wave and smile. But here I was in the flesh, and he didn’t want me. It was late, and Heather was close – I didn’t stand much of a chance at that moment.
My heart broke, a tiny shard peeling off. This was my fear, that my youngest wouldn’t know me or want to be near me. He wasn’t frightened as much as he was just unsure. I gave him back to Heather and said hello to everyone else, thanking them for coming and kissing my wife over and over again. I wasn’t about to force him close to me knowing that would spell disaster.
The struggle of being away is the feeling that you will miss out on so much. Daily, it gets worse as the distance becomes more and more pronounced. Reintegration is all about relationships: the better the relationships the better the reintegration. Its one thing when you can expect those who were in the past will be there in the future, when you get back. You can catch up and create new stories that build on old bonds.
But what about those that your relationships are new when you left? What about those who had no real concept of you before, and then you show up one day.
We came back to the house and Ewan was intent on my mandolin. He was patting on the case and just wanted to know what it was. So, I brought out the mandolin and his eyes lit up. He wanted to know what it was, and why it sounded the way it did. Running his fingers over the wood and wire, he was amazed. I was showing him something he did not know, and in that moment he was interested in me, wanting to know more about the guy who brought this into his life.
I’m starting a relationship with my son anew. I’m getting to know him as much as he’s getting to know and trust me. I know that I will be leaving again, its only a question of when. The time I have now to connect and create a relationship with my son the better it will be when that time comes again. Ewan makes it so easy, too. He’s such an amiable kid, wanting to show me everything. His smile and eyes are infectious, and only invites you to come get him and hold him.
Still, preparing for the future deployments does not make easy the present moment.